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A fusion of art and music in a club environment, Tank is carrying plenty of heavy artillery and plans to make a big impact on Auckland.

1 May 2005

With Auckland in its sights, Tank is rolling in to town to bring you a heavyweight art and music shelling that isn't just a booze-n-nibbles fest in a small unconditioned gallery.

You could almost subsist off a diet of art gallery exhibition openings in Auckland. They have alcohol and cheese, two of natures wonder-foods, and there's a new opening nearly every night. I mean face it, the beer and chips go a long way to enticing you to a gallery. When's the last time you bought a piece? If you're like me it was a long long time ago, so long in fact it may never have happened. There are a good number of very talented young artists in this country, but their peers don't necessarily earn enough money to support them. So for the majority of the artists this means their exhibitions turn in to a drinking/socializing hang out, rather than a sell-out. Enter Ammunition, the first of a series of parties planned by Karina Houde's Tank productions. Hailing from Canada, Houde says it was an idea that came from a similar event they would have in Montreal, where she went to university.

"I was around a lot of artists, and it's quite a huge concept in Montreal of doing live art galas where on a monthly basis you'd have some artists performing on a night at a venue and raffling off the paintings. It would give the people a chance to go and see the exhibitions and participate in a way by paying a certain amount and receiving a number of raffle tickets they could use to try and win the paintings. I'm bringing that concept to (a place where) artists are having a hard time getting recognition and the clientele having a hard time being able to purchase, and merging them. So we're changing the concept of the Montreal shows a little and putting it in to a club environment."

The first of the parties will be held at Auckland's premier underground venue Fu Bar, and will showcase three young Auckland based artists creating art on the night, which will be raffled off, and five DJ's providing the audible treats for the crowd.

The three artists for the Ammunition event are abstract artist Andrew Turner, graffiti based Merk, and multi media artist Akinobu Uchimoto.

Andrew Turner is a Scottish artist raised in Dubai, who later moved to New Zealand in the late eighties. His brightly coloured abstract shapes are a style Turner has been working on for some time, citing Wellington artist Robert McCleod as a mentor who taught him alot and influenced him more.

Turner says that it is the prospects of what you can do with perspective that drives him to create."It's the idea of perspective and the way that you can use perspective to create depth and colour. It's that manipulation of perspective that is very similar to graffiti art, which is why I like working with those artists."

From his first exhibition at Cafe DKD in 1989 to the present there are a handful of recurring themes in Turner's work. Among them are landscapes and buildings. It is the latter, and particularly sky-scrapers that he is most excited about, expressing that he would love to have some of his paintings made into real buildings someday. Turner has painted live at dance parties before, with perhaps his best known instalment piece being a large abstractmural on the walls of the Wyndham Bowling Club.

Merk similarly has been working in his medium since the late eighties. He tells of a time that was very different for graffiti culture; the emerging largely unrecognised art form struggled for acceptance due to its somewhat illegal nature and relative anonymity among its practitioners. But now all of that has changed. Graffiti, like hip hop has risen to become an integral part of pop culture that permeates not just through spray paint on walls, but through the fields of illustration, web design, music and music videos, and also product design. Graffiti is no longer the frowned-upon visual nuisance it was once seen as. It is now the design choice for adding street cred to anything from mobile phone companies to a new clothing range.

"From the eighties to the millennium it grew exponentially. It's a credible art form now. We have big advertising companies call up and ask us how we create it, how we go about planning and constructing it. It's evolved in all these different ways. For us it's gone from a pizza and a six pack sort of pay-off to a couple of grand for an image, and that's how it should be, and how it is for a lot of other artists. The difference is you can't learn graffiti in school, you largely have to learn for yourself."

So while other artists honed their skills at expensive art schools graffiti artists like Merk have put the hard yards in at a street level, something that finally seems to be paying off. He credits the Disruptive crew for the right kind of exposure and giving graffiti a more commercially viable home with their gallery on K Rd.

Merk has done the gallery route, and has exhibited with Andrew Turner before in an installation they did with another graffiti artist Aaron B at Artspace in 1996. He says though it is a shame that most of his friends and fans of his work don't have the disposable income to be able to buy when they come to a show.

Akinobu Uchimoto is a Japanese artist living in New Zealand who works in a broad range of mediums from painting, poetry, portraits, drawing, sculpture, installation, short visual film, through to stencils, photography, and taiko drumming. He has shown extensively and has also provided graphics for Huffer's 2003 t-shirt range.

Although English is not his native tongue (and perhaps because of this) Aki expresses himself very well, citing that the reason he creates is "... for myself and glory of future human beings (finding the memories which have been erased by someone or something in some reason). Creating something is like a sharp double sword edge. It's cleans my mind really softly as well as destroying the top of the pyramid of emotion. I could say it's a expression but also could say explosion?"

Aki has attracted a fair bit of attention in the art world through his extensive range of media he works through, though he is unashamedly an outsider artist, preferring to learn his skills through studying good paintings rather than adopt the techniques taught at art schools.

For a chance to witness these fine artists as they create their works, and take part in the raffle which could ultimately land one of their masterpieces on your walls, check out Ammunition at Fu Bar on June 4.